Contagious fun: gnu with flu, and friends


Piles of snow from the storm of the century sit, stubborn, on the sodden yard. Spring arrived last week, but winter refused to budge. Here are a few books to help pass the time through the rest of this miserable March.

* If it seems as if the flu season has stretched on for six months, LTC try a dose of "Who's Sick Today?" by Lynne Cherry (Puffin Unicorn, $3.99, ages 3-6).

Ms. Cherry takes readers through a pediatrician's busiest day, with young members of the animal kingdom as patients. There are beavers with fevers, a small red fox with chickenpox, a gnu with the flu . . . well, you get the idea.

Her finely detailed illustrations are as delightful as the rhymes. The pediatrician, a graying pelican in wire-rimmed glasses, makes a house call to check up on the beavers with fevers.

The baby beavers are curled up in twin beds piled high with patchwork quilts. On closer inspection, the walls of their bedroom are an intricate network of roots and branches, and outside the window of the den, fish swim by.

In almost every scene, from llamas in pajamas to young stoats with sore throats, Mom and Dad are on hand to help nurse the patients. It's just what the doctor ordered.

Ms. Cherry, whose fine work includes "The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest" and "A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History," is artist-in-residence at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater. She will be in Baltimore on Wednesday to speak at Towson State University's 1993 Children's Literature Festival.

Presentations will be at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The cost for any or all of those sessions is $10. Each presentation, and the lecture, will be on different topics. Books will be for sale and Ms. Cherry will autograph books at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. To register or to get more information, call (410) 830-2572.

* You may not need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, especially with this month's gusts. But a couple of books should appeal to budding meteorologists. "Storms" by Seymour Simon (Mulberry paperback, $4.95, ages 6 and up) devotes a page or more to different aspects of violent weather: thunder, lightning, hailstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes.

Mr. Simon, a noted science writer, is easy to understand: "Like the hose of an enormous vacuum cleaner, the tornado picks up loose materials and whirls them aloft." And the full-color photos are sensational.

Those who like to keep some mystery in nature will prefer "Weather Report: Poems Selected by Jane Yolen" illustrated by Annie Gusman (Boyds Mills Press, $16.95, all ages). Chapters are devoted to rain, sun, wind, snow and fog, and the poets range from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Langston Hughes to Mother Goose and Ogden Nash.

It's 59 pages long, and Ms. Gusman's black-and-white illustrations give the book a bold, art deco feel.

* Passover arrives at sundown on April 5. Ask any Jewish kid his or her favorite part of the Seder, and the answer will be . . . the bitter herbs. No, no, that's not right. The best part of the Passover celebration comes when you get to open the door for the Prophet Elijah.

I. L. Peretz, who lived in Poland from 1852 to 1915, is known as one of the founders of modern Yiddish literature. One of his stories, "The Magician," tells of how Elijah disguised himself as a magician and provided a Seder for a poor couple who couldn't afford even the matzo.

Barbara Diamond Goldin, a renowned storyteller and folklorist, has adapted that story as "The Magician's Visit: A Passover Tale," illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker (Viking, $14.99, ages 3-8).

Fans of Ms. Goldin's Hanukkah picture book, "Just Enough Is Plenty" won't be disappointed. Her writing is rhythmic and perfect for reading aloud, and Mr. Parker's old-world illustrations -- hand-colored etchings and aquatint -- make it a candidate to be passed down from one generation to the next.

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